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Court rules against smokers in South Korea's first lawsuits against cigarette maker

Court rules against smokers in South Korea's first lawsuits against cigarette maker

A South Korean court ruled against smokers Thursday in the nation's first lawsuits against a cigarette maker and the government over illnesses allegedly caused by smoking.
The Seoul Central District Court rejected the plaintiffs' contention in two separate cases that their diseases resulted from smoking.
"There is no evidence to recognize that plaintiffs' lung cancers and larynx cancers were directly caused by smoking" of cigarettes sold by KT&G, South Korea's dominant tobacco maker, Judge Cho Kyeong-ran said.
The government was involved in the lawsuits, the first against a cigarette maker, because a state agency monopolized the manufacture of cigarettes until 1987, when it became a public company that later was privatized as KT&G in 2002.
Bae Keum-ja, a lawyer representing 31 plaintiffs in one of the cases, said they will appeal to a higher court. Another lawyer representing five plaintiffs in the other case was not immediately available for comment.
Bae insisted there was clear evidence that smoking was mainly responsible for the lung cancers of her clients, citing medical diagnoses.
KT&G hailed the court's "wise" decision, saying that the causes of lung cancer include not only smoking but also asbestos, arsenic and air pollution.
In 1999, the group of 31 plaintiffs sued for 300 million won (US320,500;